Coalition calls for Chicago to end use of facial recognition technology

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CHICAGO — Seventy-five groups are joining forces to call on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to end the city's use of facial recognition technology.

The movement, Press Pause Chicago, is made of labor groups, community organizers, civil liberties organizations, and technologists.

They're reacting to recent reports by the Chicago Sun-Times that said the city accessed inaccurate and racially-biased facial recognition technology for over a decade.

They say billions of images are being collected without people's consent.

They also say the technology being used has a high percentage of false positives when monitoring people with darker colored skin.

"This technology is racially biased, and it is flawed," said Muhammad Sankari from the Arab American Action Network.

The community groups are reaching out to city aldermen to get them behind a new ordinance.

They're raising concerns of the police department's use of facial recognition technology to spot criminals. Critics say it violates the civil rights of law abiding citizens.

The police department says it does not use the technology for surveillance.

"We strictly use these processes to solve crimes that have been reported, where we have evidence that gives us a person's face, but not identity," said Interim Police Superintendent Charlie Beck.

“We have a responsibility to use the best tools and technology to help safeguard Chicago but just as important is using that technology responsibly without infringing on people's privacy of constitutional rights. We take that component very seriously,” said CPD Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi.

"This is a database in the hands of a private company," said attorney Mike Kanovitz. "We, as citizens, have no control if we don't resort to the courts to enforce that control over what becomes of this data."

Clearview Ai, which is providing this technology, says it only searches for images that are already in the public domain, lawfully gathered from platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

But critics say the technology violates constitutional rights and the mayor campaigned on looking into this issue.

In a written statement Tuesday, Lightfoot says she promised to place a moratorium on the practice.

“If it was embedded in the city’s camera network and used for live or real-time surveillance purposes. The technology used by the Chicago Police Department is not connected to the city’s camera network and does not have or utilize any live or real time facial recognition technology.”

Press Pause Chicago is asking for the meeting with a mayor to discuss alternatives.

Mayor Lightfoot is in Washington, DC Tuesday to watch the State of the Union Address.

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